Market research has always been important for businesses to carry out when evaluating the performance of their products or services and the overall performance of their market sector. However, it is also a very important tool that provides a business with insights into customer and target audience behaviour. When conducting market research, businesses tend to use two main methodological groups: qualitative and quantitative.
Qualitative research methods
Qualitative research methods aim to gain an in-depth insight into what individuals think, feel or do. These methods focus on exploring the ‘why’ and ‘how’ reasons behind customers behaviours and decisions. Qualitative research is designed to reveal the behaviours and perceptions that drive a target audience in reference to specific topics or issues.
Qualitative research is carried out on small samples of the population. For example, you may be interested in researching a segmented group of your target audience such as a particular buyer persona or age group (e.g. Travel enthuastists, females in the 20-25 age bracket.) Qualitative researchers have many choices in terms of how they wish to collect data ranging from case studies, grounded theory, participant observation and ethnography. However, the most common qualitative methods used are that of an in-depth interview or a focus group.
Interviews can be designed in various different ways depending on the data in which you are looking to find. They can be unstructured, semi-structured or fully structured. Most researchers tend to prefer the semi-structured approach as not only does it allow you to cover the questions and topics that you want to but also gives interviewees the opportunity to bring up their own concerns and insights.
Focus groups usually consist of a group of eight to ten people. These group discussions can last between one to two hours. The topic of these discussions is provided to the selected participants in advance. Focus groups are a great way for customers to express their views and concerns on the quality of products and services. It is generally recommended to conduct at least three focus groups in order to get balanced results.
Quantitative research methods
Quantitative research uses statistical and mathematical methods in order to research a larger sample group of the population. Quantitative market research asks individuals for their opinions in a more structured way than that of qualitative research.. This is done so that the data produced will provide solid and definitive results.
The most common forms of quantitative research used in marketing are customer surveys and questionnaires. The techniques in which these surveys are carried out vary and are dependent on your businesses’ preference. Usually, these surveys are carried out either online, over the phone, via post or face-to-face.
In general, customer surveys and questionnaires follow a more structured layout than that of qualitative methods. The questions included on these surveys and questionnaires need to be carefully considered in order to produce meaningful data. Face-to-face surveys work well as it provides you with an opportunity to explain any questions in person if the customer is unsure of what they are being asked. Phone surveys can also be effective. However, some customers might not be interested in giving their opinions over the phone. When sending out surveys via post or email, it is generally advised that you offer an incentive for customers to participate in the survey such as a discount or a special offer.
Quantitative research is beneficial as it can inform you if there is a new market for your products or services. It also tells you what awareness there is for your business and how many individuals are interested in purchasing or working with your business in the future. Due to the statistical nature of quantitative research, a minimum number of thirty responses are required. Although, most marketers hope to get a larger sample size than this as it will produce more reliable data.
Which research method is right for my business?
The answer to this is both. Both methods aim to help businesses improve their products and services by helping them to make informed decisions. It is advised that a business should always use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods when researching their customers and the performance of their products and services.
A recommended approach to market research is to start off by going straight to the source and conducting qualitative research. This will provide your business with actual information and data straight from your target audience. Following this, the business can then use quantitative methods in order to test the insights that they have been provided with.
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